TAKING TO THE AIR: The Rise of Michael Jordan by Jim Naughton

TAKING TO THE AIR: The Rise of Michael Jordan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Besides offering a solid chronological biography and record of Michael Jordan's basketball career, here Naughton (My Brother Stealing Second, 1989) also gives an astute assessment of this superstar's impact on society and of ""the conflict between self and symbol"" for an American icon. The ""most successfully marketed athlete in the history of team sports,"" ""Air"" Jordan's popularity transcends the basketball court and, according to Naughton, the racial boundaries encountered by other black athletes and celebrities. Examining Jordan's development from his youth through his emotional catharsis after the 1991 NBA championship, the author finds a man possessed by the need to compete and excel--but one also steeped in the values of family and charity. A member of the 1984 Olympic team following his illustrious career at the Univ. of North Carolina, Jordan's impact on the NBA was felt almost immediately, both on and off the court. His incredible acrobatics and scoring sprees, combined with his unprecedented $2.5 million, five-year contract with Nike and his persistent confrontation with the Chicago Bulls' front office over personnel decisions, marked him as a man apart, one who would become ""bigger than the game he played."" Jordan's phenomenal appeal is grounded in part, Naughton argues, ""in the public's perception that fame has not spoiled him."" Handsome, soft-spoken, and seemingly approachable, Jordan is the black embodiment of a Horatio Alger character. Naughton perceptively notes that other black superstars find that their success ""has not been taken as a sign of racial worthiness, but as a sign of genetic peculiarity."" Despite Jordan's success, however, thus far, Naughton says, the player ""has neither encountered the circumstances nor taken the risks that would make him a truly forceful actor in the nation's racial drama."" Insightful and well written: a fine analysis of the business side of sports and of the creation of a modern legend.

Pub Date: March 12th, 1992
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Warner